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Chicago on track to hit 2020 tourism goal early

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The city is expected to exceed the 55 million annual visitor mark this year

Curbed Chicago Flickr pool/Seth Anderson

Chicago’s booming tourism and hospitality industry is on pace to meet Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s objective of attracting a record 55 million annual visitors to the Windy City much earlier than expected. First announced in early 2014, Emanuel’s initiative had originally hoped to reach its target by 2020. Chicago is now on pace to hit the 55 million mark by the end of 2017—a full three years early.

This isn’t the first time in recent memory that Chicago exceeded tourism goals sooner than expected. After becoming mayor in 2011, Emanuel had originally pushed for 50 million visitors by 2020 but set his sights higher after hitting that mark in three short years. In 2016, the total number of tourists had soared to a record 54 million.

Despite negative national headlines dominated by the city’s issue with violent crime—not to mention a “worse than Afghanistan” description from President Donald Trump—Chicago is still more popular than ever among tourists. Named the number one big city in the U.S. to visit by Condé Nast Traveler, the Second City has emerged as a top culinary and cultural destination.

Thanks to Chicago’s recent Year of Public Art initiative, the Chicago Architecture Biennial, an expanded Riverwalk, improvements to Navy Pier, and thousands of new hotel rooms, tourists have more things to do (and places to stay) than ever before.